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Meeting the Queen was ‘the most nervous moment of my life’, says Australia’s former PM

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Former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has described meeting the Queen as the most nervous moment of his life.

The former leader recalled how he and his wife Jenny had been hurriedly trying to prepare for the occasion at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

“Jenny was YouTubing how to curtsy in the car,” he said.

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Mr Morrison was also anxious about getting the right gift.

He called his mentor and fellow former prime minister John Howard for advice, who told him: “You can’t go wrong with anything to do with horses. Go study up on your horses.”

In the end, he decided to get her a book about Winx, a champion Australian racehorse.

The Queen, he said, “immediately picks it out of the bag, she’s flicking through it like a schoolgirl, she lit up like you wouldn’t believe”.

It was a moment of relief and levity for all. Queen Elizabeth II “just made us at home in an instant”.

In 1954, she became the first reigning monarch to step foot on Australian soil. Mr Morrison says it was the start of a special bond with Australia and its people.

“She loved this country,” he said. “She’d been here 16 times. You don’t do that if you don’t like the place, and she came back again and again and again.”

Government House in Sydney. Submitted for Cordelia Lynch story on Scott Morrison/the Queen. 10 September 2022
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Australians have been leaving floral tributes outside Government House in Sydney

He said the Queen understood the country and what life on the land was like.

“I think she admired the resilience of Australians who work and live off the land here,” he said. “I think she greatly respected them, and I think they were greatly encouraged by her.

“They had a particular bond with her as Australians – even more so than perhaps anyone else here in the country.”

Australia’s relationship with the Royal Family has not been a straightforward one, but its respect for the Queen has proved enduring.

In 1999, a referendum was held on whether the country should formally become a republic.

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Global tributes to the Queen

It, of course, did not – and it is notable that Malcolm Turnbull, who led the campaign for the country to become a republic, has in recent days been providing some of the most moving tributes to her.

He appeared to be in tears as he said: “She is one of my favourite people.”

In Sydney, outside Government House, the seat of the governor of New South Wales, many ordinary Australians came to lay flowers and pay their respects to her.

Alongside eulogies were messages of support for King Charles and the weighty days ahead for him.

Wherever the next few years may take this country, there is a recognition across the political spectrum that this is a period of mourning and of gratitude for a life of service.

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